New Report Finds Engine Nozzle Failure Caused Blue Origin Crash

(Image: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin's New Shepard (NS-23) must remain grounded for now, after a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigation found that the suborbital rocket system's Sept. 12, 2022 crash was caused by the failure of an engine nozzle. The FAA, which closed its investigation into the New Shepard crash last week, is requiring Blue Origin to complete 21 corrective actions, including a re-design of the engine and nozzle components before it can resume rocket launch operations.

During the mishap the onboard launch vehicle systems detected the anomaly, triggered an abort and separation of the capsule from the propulsion module as intended and shut down the engine, according to the FAA. The capsule landed safety and the propulsion module was destroyed upon impact with the ground. All debris landed within the designated hazard area. Public safety was maintained at all times with no injuries or public property damage.

Blue Origin posted a response to the FAA's closure of its mishap investigation with a post to its X account that notes, "We’ve received the FAA’s letter and plan to fly soon." The company previously released its own findings into the cause of the rocket's crash in March, stating that the direct cause was the result of a "thermo structural failure of the engine nozzle."

A forensic evaluation of the recovered nozzle fragments also showed clear evidence of thermal damage and hot streaks resulting from increased operating temperatures, according to Blue Origin. The fatigue location on the flight nozzle is aligned with a persistent hot streak identified during the investigation.

The FAA is not releasing the full version of the mishap investigation report because it "contains proprietary data and U.S Export Control information."